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Childhood depression linked to a higher risk of death by age 31

Children who get depression are SIX times more likely to die by the age of 31, study finds

  • Swedish study of 1.4million people found higher risk for dozens of illnesses
  • Not certain that depression directly causes higher risk, the scientists admitted
  • But it should be taken into account when monitoring health of sufferers 

Children who get diagnosed with depression between the ages of five and 19 are six times more likely to die by the time they’re 31, according to a study.

Researchers in Sweden followed 1.4million people to test whether there was a link between childhood or teenage depression and worse health in adulthood.

They found that people who suffered with mental health disorder in their youth were more likely than non-sufferers to be diagnosed with dozens of serious illnessses.

These included type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart diseases, epilepsy, sleep disorders, liver disease and kidney disease. 

Depression is one of the most common mental health problems and is found increasingly often among children and teenagers, studies have found. 

The study, led by Stockholm’s Karolinska Institutet, said that around 2.8 per cent of eight to 13-year-olds get the condition, along with 5.6 per cent of 14 to 18-year-olds. 

The researchers behind it said it was the largest study to date to look at links between childhood mental health and physical health in adulthood.

Children and teenagers who get depression face living with worse health in adulthood, a Swedish study found (stock image)

Led by Dr Sarah Bergen at the Karolinska, the experts wrote: ‘These findings highlight the hypothesis that the morbidity of youth depression extends beyond psychiatric and neurologic disorders, increasing the burden of disease and posing quality-of-life and public health challenges.’

They said that although they couldn’t prove depression caused the worse health in adulthood, knowing about the link would help doctors to monitor patients. 

In the study, which lasted for 31 years from 1982 to 2013, a total of 37,185 of the people were diagnosed with depression during their childhood or teenage years. They were all aged between 17 and 31 by the time the study ended.

One per cent of the people with depression died before the end of the study compared to 0.4 per cent of people in the non-depression group.  

Some of the people died by self-harm – this was 14.6 times more likely in the depression group – but people developed other fatal diseases as well. The causes of death were not all outlined.

The researchers looked at 69 different conditions and considered how much more common they were in the depression group than the healthy group.

They found differences between men and women.

In the paper Dr Bergen and her colleagues explained: ‘Sex differences were observed for many of the examined medical outcomes. 

‘In particular, compared with males, females had substantially higher relative and absolute risks for injuries, an increased risk difference for genitourinary infections, and moderately higher relative risks of gastrointestinal, genitourinary, and respiratory infections; cough; and some skin disorders. 

‘Conversely, males had comparatively elevated relative risks for obesity, thyroid gland and other endocrine gland disorders, celiac disease, connective tissue disorders, and dermatitis and eczema. 

‘Both sexes with youth depression presented increased relative risks for nervous system disorders, type 2 diabetes, viral hepatitis, kidney disease, and liver disease, among others.’

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